When I moved to Copperopolis in 1984, the selection of restaurants was slim to none. We pretty much were limited to "Poker Flat" Resort, "The Cove", and Joan and George's Cafe next to the gas station. Over the years, "Poker Flat" changed ownership multiple times, the "Cove" burned down multiple times, and the "Cafe" changed ownership and types of food a few times over. Restaurants have come and gone with none really hanging around for long.
Since we are a small "resort town" we obviously don't have much of a selection due to our somewhat seasonal population. With that in mind, my Top Ten list of Restaurants, is really two "Top 5" lists. In town, and out of town. Listed below are my favorites for both....
Top 5 Copperopolis Restaurants
5. The Copper Grille at Saddle Creek
This has probably been the most consistent restaurant over the last 10 years. Dinners are a bit pricey, but they often have $10 dinner themes that are really good. Breakfast and Lunch are good as well.
4. Snaps Coffee and Wine Bar
If I was ranking by how I often I actually go, Snaps would be #1. Since it really isn't a full service restaurant, it sets at #4. I actually PREFER Snaps to Starbucks. Let me say that again, I actually prefer Snaps to Starbucks. I know Starbucks isn't always the greatest to coffee lovers, but it can be counted on for it's consistency. Snaps is better. Hands Down. They offer free wifi which is great for visitors that do not have local access. If you are looking for a lite lunch or breakfast, the also serve an excellent smaller menu. I am a big fan of the Chicken Pesto Panini. They also feature a wine bar with many local wines, and a decent selection of beers. Go there....daily!
3. Drifters Marina and Grill
I love this place. This fall, I watched nearly every game of the NLCS and the World Series on their 55" TV. While it really isn't a "Sports Bar" it is a great place to catch a big game. The staff and food is excellent and you can't beat the lakeside location. During the warmer months, a great time can also be had on their outside decks. My favorites items to eat are the garlic fries, any of the pizzas, and the chicken sandwiches. They also have these breaded and fried jalapeno slices that are pretty awesome.
2. Mexico Lindo
Esther and family provide great Mexican food at a reasonable price. I like this place because it is one of the rare places where your "special order" becomes normal. I have a lot of items that I have made special and I don't have to explain what I want. They just know. Since I am very partial to my special orders, I will share a few with you. Bean Dip. Wait there is no bean dip on the menu. If you mention that I (Aaron) told you to order the bean dip, they wold bring you a bowl of refried beans, covered in verde sauce, cheese and a spoonful of sour cream. It is so good to go with the chips and salsa. My Favorite are my chicken tacos. It has been awhile since I saw the regular, but I know they are fried with a corn tortilla, and mine feature a soft flour tortilla with great pieces of chunked chicken breast with a perfect amount of their mole sauce, lettuce, cheese and tomato. They also have a great hot salsa that is available if you ask for it.
1.Panini's Italian Grille
Panini's is a newer restaurant in the Copperopolis Town Square. If you are looking for upscale dining, then Panini's is the best in town. The service is great and kid friendly. The menu is well rounded but my runaway favorite is the Gold Rush Vegetarian Pizza. I am picky about my pizza, and this is the best vegetarian pizza that I have ever had.
Top 5 "Just outside of" Copperopolis Restaurants
5. Woods Creek Cafe
On a weekend, get there early, or be prepared to wait a bit. If you must wait, believe me that it is well worth it. Use the dry erase board to establish your position in line or you might wait a lot longer. Spotted cows, rolls of paper towels mounted to each table and the best breakfast in Tuolumne County is what you should expect. Lunch is good too, but breakfast is best. The "Superbowl" is all you need to know when it comes to the menu. The deserts are also great, along with the handmade chocolate milkshakes. Located on Highway 108 in Jametown.
4. El Jardin
There are many El Jardin restaurants in the surrounding area. In order, I prefer the Murphys location, followed by Sonora and then Columbia. The food is fantastic and it is where I stole the idea for my "special" bean dip at Mexico Lindo. As great as the food is, my favorite thing at this restaurant is the fried ice cream. It is the real thing and absolutely delicious.
Grounds is located in Downtown Murphys. It is my favorite place for breakfast, even though I don't have to time to make it up there a lot. The food is fresh and the french toast uses bread that is baked that morning from the bread store a few doors down. It is also open for lunch and dinner, but I personally have always preferred it for a great breakfast. The French Toast with Marionberry syrup is my personal favorite, but the breakfast burrito is great as well.
2. Mikes Pizza
I admit that I am a pizza snob. While there is rarely a bad pizza, after eating pizza in Illinois while I was in college, it was hard to adapt back to the pizza in California. It is just not the same. Similar, but only by name and shape. Mike's Pizza is worth the drive to Angels Camp to either eat it there, or bring it home. While it is totally different from pizza in Illinois, it is the best pizza that I have had in California, other than Chicago Fire
in Sacramento. Mike's Pizza is thick, the sauce is great (I ask for extra) and the cheese is not greasy. The veggies are fresh and they are always cooked just right. The Cheesy Breadsticks are a must, and if you want dessert, they also have cinnamon sticks which are fantastic. I generally pick it up and bring it home, but my kids love to eat it there and play all of the quarter eaters (video games).
This is my favorite restaurant period! From opening night until now, it is my favorite place to eat. The restaurant is basically divided down the middle. On one side, you have a full service bar decorated with rock n' roll posters, a large plasma that is always playing live classic rock concerts, and you can always find the personable Azzo behind the bar. The bar is known far and wide for it's "Lemon Drops", but I love it for it's ice cold Fat Tire beer. While the bar area is a little less formal, the dining area is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the region. Everything is spectacular although I always lean toward the handmade pasta, red sauce and chicken. Go there tonight, but don't forget to call for reservations, it fills up quick!!!